Collaboration is a key component of human activity, in fields as diverse as scientific inquiry, news reporting, the arts, and government. When we work together effectively, we can accomplish big things. We should always seek to improve our understanding of what conditions support effective collaboration. Wikipedia, I believe, holds many of the answers — not in the content of its encyclopedic articles, but in the story of its genesis and growth.
Wikipedia has supported an unprecedented level of collaborative activity in its first two decades. What conditions have permitted the site to become, and remain, such an integral part of our information landscape? That is the question I explore in an essay, “Trusting Everybody to Work Together,” for a forthcoming book celebrating Wikipedia’s 20th anniversary. I review some of the early discourse that drove Wikipedia’s software design. I propose that the proper mix of eight specific, mutually supporting software capabilities has played a significant role, and I argue that closer consideration of these software capabilities should inform future software design, both in the Wikipedia world and beyond.
The Signpost just published the essay. Please take a look.